Some weeks things just break right if you're a sports fan. This was one of those weeks.
I was at the Joe last Monday night for the Wings-Penguins triple OT. I was in Detroit for a Hank Greenberg golf fete, and my host had asked me the week before if I'd like to go to Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
He's a season ticket holder, and his seats are the equivalent of the 48-yard line, the second row of the second tier, which is merely fabulous. The Wings were beyond awful in the first period, and were lucky not to be trailing by more than 2-0. They weren't much better in the second period, but they got a break when a puck deflected off a downed Pittsburgh guy's skate.
Then they came out and played a A-level third period, scoring three times. The people were delirious as the clock wound down. I was pretty excited, too, since I've never seen a home team clinch a Cup in person. I missed the 1970 Bruins-Blues Game 4 because I had an army reserve meeting. I wasn't around for the clinching in '72, which I'm gonna guess took place in New York, anyway. So I was up for seeing those Wings skating around with the Cup.
Then Maxime Talbot scored with 34.3 seconds to go. What? So off we went into an OT, and then another OT. The shots were mounting in Detroit's favor -- it would eventually be 58-31 -- but Marc-Andre Fleury was, yup, standing on his head. Plus, there was a little assist from the Puck God when a Detroit shot hit the underside of the crossbar and dropped straight down.
I may not be a hockey maven, but I have seen enough to get nervous when one team waaaay outshoots the other in one of these games. You can pretty much bet the outshot guys will get one. All it took was a drawing-blood high-sticking penalty. Petr Sikora scored about 30 seconds later, and that was that.
I must say I was pretty impressed when I found out that Talbot was the extra attacker chosen by Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien when he pulled Fleury in the third period, and that Sergei Gonchar, who had missed a lot of time after sustaining some kind of injury, was put on the ice for that power play and he got the assist.
Players do make coaches look smart, don't they?
Thursday night was Game 1 of the NBA Finals. It was a very nice contemporary NBA game, spiced by the Paul Pierce drama.
We now know he was definitely hurt. Don't ask me about the rapid recovery time. Maybe Oral Roberts was in that Celtics locker room, as Phil Jackson suggested. It all made for easy off-day stories for my journalistic colleagues, and there's nothing wrong with that.
The game was good, not great. The great game will come when Kobe goes off and the Celtics either do or don't answer the challenge.
Saturday was my bonus day.
I was in New York, and I needed to scratch a baseball itch. The return of the Celtics has seriously cut into my baseball time, so I decided I needed to see the Yankees play the Royals. Of course, had it been anything other than a 1:05 start I wasn't going. I wasn't missing the Belmont, and Saturday night baseball is against my religion.
It was the perfect game for the once-a-year fan. Those people want three things, and they'll settle for two. 1. The home team wins. 2. There are a lot of runs. 3. There is drama.
The Yankees won, 12-11. They were down, 5-1 and 10-6. Andy Pettitte got a no-decision despite allowing 10 earned runs, the last four of which came on a Jose Guillen grand slam on Pettitte's 111th pitch. Guillen also had a two-run homer and he drove in seven runs before leaving the game after fouling one off his ankle (which was before he hit the granny, which itself followed a vicious foul home run).
Mariano Rivera was brought in with the score tied at 10, and David DeJesus hit his first pitch over the 385-foot sign. At that point you had to figure we'd seen enough amazing stuff for one day. Uh-uh.
Jorge Posada lined a one-out homer off that Soria guy I'd been hearing so much about to tie it 11-11 in the ninth. Then, with two out, Cano walks and Betemit hits a squibbler down the third base line on which there cannot be a play.
That brought up Johnny Damon, whose fifth hit of the day had tied the score 10-10 in the seventh. Could he go 6-for-6? Yup. He drilled one down the right field line for the game-winning hit.
My friend Bob Rosen of the Elias Sports Bureau was there, and I posed the following question to him. In the entire history of baseball, has a man ever gone 6-for-6 while producing a walk-off game-winner? And could anyone have possibly tied a game with his fifth hit and won it with his sixth? I mean, there aren't that many guys who have ever gone 6-for-6, and I'm sure the preponderance of those performances come in routs, not one-run games. We'll see what he comes up with.
Oops. Almost forgot to mention that plate ump Jerry Layne took a Joey Gathright fouled-off bunt right on the chin in the third and had to leave the game. We had an 11-minute delay while second base ump Joe (I think) Wolf went inside to put on the gear. The game, not endurance, proceeded without incident on the umping front. Layne was taken to a hospital and held overnight. We all take what they do for granted, but it can get pretty hairy back there.
Anyway, that's a pretty good sports week, don't you think?
Belmont query. Since there were three Triple Crown winners within five years in the '70s, and none since, and what with everyone saying they don't breed 'em like they used to, that they breed 'em now strictly for speed and to get them back breeding themselves as quickly as possible, doesn't that explain the whole thing? It's not as if they've secretly lengthened Belmont to a mile and three-quarters. It's still a mile and a half. Ain't no horses these days who can run that often in just five weeks and finish with a mile and a half, I guess. Big Brown was the only one to try.
Now that the Wall Street Journal has apparently uncovered the Mystery of Gino, can we ever enjoy our beloved Celtics victory video as much again, knowing that Joe Massoni, the bearded guy with the Gino shirt given to him by a lady friend, has been dead for about 18 years? And dying of pneumonia? That may be the ultimate pitch for universal health care.